• Thomas Middleditch, Jonah Ray, Kumail Nanjiani make Fun Fun Fun Fest (even more) weird

    Jimmy O. YangAUSTIN — On the final day of Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest, Thomas Middleditch (HBO’s Silicon Valley) performed a spontaneous impression of a Revolution-era judge shouting the name “John Quincy Adams!”

    He paused. He laughed. And he asked himself, “What the hell am I doing?”

    That moment on Sunday represented a crystallization of Sunday’s comedic performances: weird, unexpected, spontaneous.

    The afternoon featured a collective of three performers from Silicon Valley, a show that centers on the 21st century awkward tech-geek-slash-hipster donning the zip-up hooded sweatshirt over a collared t-shirt uniform. Although that nerdish, reserved icon is typically more at home at South by Southwest than Fun Fun Fun Fest, all three comedians unexpectedly meshed oddly well with the freewheeling Bohemian spirit of this festival.

    Kicking the afternoon of stand-up off was Jimmy O. Yang, a recurring character on Silicon Valley. Although Yang delved into some widely trafficked topics—reality television, dating in the age of Tinder, the usual—the comic did offer a fresh take on the difficulties of attending concerts as a very, very short man that resonated with many an attendee. “Apparently, tall people have fun at concerts,” he quipped. As a five-foot-tall woman who attends concerts and sees nothing but the backs of heads, Yang, I feel that feel.

    Jonah Ray of The Nerdist Podcast fame (not a character on Silicon Valley… yet) also discussed his experiences at concerts, focusing in particular on the acts he’d seen the first two days of Fun Fun Fun Fest. Ray discussed seeing the post-hardcore band The Blood Brothers on Friday, which included a brief foray into the pit—an act he, of course, regretted. (Note: I too saw the Blood Brothers for about five minutes before their aggression was too much to handle, so my compadre and I meandered over to see the sultry slow jams of Ginuwine instead).

    Jonah Ray at Fun Fun Fun Fest

    Ray capped his set off with one of the weirder dance contests I’ve ever seen, held between two volunteer audience members and featuring the rappin’ stylings of Hulk Hogan. Note to Fun Fun Fun Fest bookers: bring that act to the fest in 2015.

    The rest of the afternoon continued Ray’s work in building off of the crowd’s bizarre energy with largely unforeseen results. Thomas Middleditch, for example, widely known for his portrayal of the shy and laconic programmer Richard Hendriks, donned a starkly different personality for festivalgoers that could only be described as manic. The comic bounced around the stage like an excitable puppy, jumping from topic to topic—matchmaking for audience members, the process of getting dental veneers, having a dog named Meatloaf—with nary a transition.

    There was something at once exhausting and exhilarating about Middleditch’s energy and sporadic bursts of comedy (including an absurdist riff on Jeff Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck,” reconceived as “you might be a donut!”), but somehow it resonated with this fairly mellow crowd.

    Things continued to go off the rails when Kumail Nanjiani took the stage. Noting the chill vibe of the audience and the continual puffs of smoke that rose from the crowd—hey, it’s a music festival—Nanjiani took one smoker named Jacob to task, which prompted another audience member to interrupt the set by loudly asking “Is that Jacob Storbeck?” It was not, as presumably there are multiple Jacobs in this city. But Nanjiani took the interruption in stride, calling the moment the best heckle he’d encountered: just a man trying to find his friend.

    Kumail Nanjiani at Fun Fun Fun Fest

    And so the comedic performances of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 came to a close. And, after bearing witness to the peculiar work of John Waters, Jello Biafra, Ian Rubbish, and the nerdbros-gone-wild of Silicon Valley, I am content with the knowledge that the dream of the weird remains alive in Austin.

    For more Fun Fun Fun Fest coverage, go here and here.

    photos by Carrie Andersen.

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    Carrie Andersen

    In addition to writing for Laughspin, Carrie is a graduate student in Austin, Texas, where she researches popular culture, new media, music, and social movements. When not reading or writing in any official capacity, she spends her time playing the drums, watching crappy TV, and eating copious amounts of tacos and barbecue. She also blogs sporadically at carrieandersen.com.

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